Between the weight loss ads on TV and the donation appeals from non-profits, there’s no mistaking the New Year is upon us. That means it’s time for timeless New Year’s resolutions like “quit smoking” or “lose weight” or “get organized” or “spend more time with family.” In my case, that means calling my parents more often.
These days people talk less about resolutions and more about their goals for the year. After all, experts say setting goals is the way to achieve things in life. We’re told to be SMART, making the goals “Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-bound.” We’re told to write them down, to affirm them by saying them out loud and to visualize ourselves reaching our goal. That’s the secret to success.
Note: I haven’t raced since 2009 (or was it 2008?). But nothing stands for success like standing on a podium.
At the beginning of 2013 I reflected on this blog in a post called “Looking Back, Moving Forward.” It was much easier to look back into 2012 than to look forward into 2013. I reluctantly jotted down a few things that certainly didn’t meet the SMART criteria for goal setting:
Moving forward into 2013, I’m not really sure the year will bring. I want to travel overseas again, like we did in 2011 with trips to Amsterdam, Paris and London. I want to do more long rides and gain back some technical skills I’ve lost on the dirt. I want to do a longer, multi-day bike+train tour.
Well, if you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know that we didn’t travel overseas or take a multi-day train tour, and I probably did fewer long road rides and less dirt riding in 2013 than I did in 2012. That’s what happens when you don’t set SMART goals and don’t affirm and visualize them and all that.
So what did I do instead? Looking back, what am I most proud of? Here are my Top Five Highlights of 2013.
#1 Anything Goes Commuter Challenge
In April, I challenged myself to try every possible way of commuting to work, and threw down the gauntlet to my readers. I had no way of knowing if anyone would respond. My readers did not disappoint. Six responded, including one who walked 4.5 miles in LA, one who wrote in all the way from the Netherlands, and two who dedicated a full series of Anything Goes posts on their own blogs. As for me, I stretched myself by taking the bus for the first time in decades and learned to ride a push scooter. Trying new things keeps us young, eh?
#2 Silicon Valley Bike Style
It wasn’t my idea, I promise. My grey-bearded-bike-commuter-Burning-Man friend Jack said: “We need to do something with this Cycle Chic thing for the SVBC Bike Away from Work Party.” That turned into encouraging people to dress up for rapid-fire photo shoot at the SVBC party, and then a Silicon Valley Bike Style Tumblr site. What I learned: that people who ride bikes in Silicon Valley do have style and that convincing strangers to let you take their bike portraits is not that hard. People love their bikes and love sharing that love with others.
#3 Bike Fun in the Mountain View Voice
I was barely finished uploading the bike style portraits from SVBC party when I got an email from our local paper: Would I be interested in writing a bike blog for their online edition? What emerged was “Bike Fun with Dick and Janet” (shortened to Bike Fun). Written for a more casual bike rider and more locally focused than this blog, it’s featured everything from a map of secret passageways in town to top bike picnic spots around town. I was nervous about anti-bike public comments and I did get a few indeed, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle.
#4 Five Things I Knew About Women & Bikes
In August, the League of American Bicyclists published a research report on women and bicycling. It’s no secret that in the US, like most of the English-speaking world, there are far more men who ride bikes regularly than women. The report’s findings confirmed what I already knew, but was afraid to speak out about without hard data to back me up. I started to write a post about it, but had so much to say I ended up with a series (not unlike those two Anything Goes participants). Lo and behold, the folks at the League loved it so much they featured excerpts of my series on their national web site’s blog, complete with some of my most flattering photos.
#5 California Bike Summit
Opening my big mouth with the series on women and bikes definitely opened some doors. In October I was asked by Melissa Balmer, the founder of Women on Bikes SoCal to speak at the California Bike Summit on her “Why Style Matters” panel. Melissa then interviewed me for their event blog, put my photo on the cover of the program and asked me to be a contributor on her newly launched Pedal Love site. Oh, and I also presented the Silicon Valley Bike Style project in a full-conference session at the summit. It was almost overwhelming.
Going back to the beginning of 2013, there was actually a second half to my “Moving forward” paragraph.
I want to push myself to write to a broader audience than this blog. Last year several people nudged me that direction, but I haven’t put myself out there. I also see myself speaking out more for women’s issues in cycling.
Despite the lack of a SMART goal, I would say that I did what I hoped for. Much of it was because I had people who nudged me, like Jack of SVBC and Melissa of Pedal Love, and other people who otherwise encouraged me, like my friends on Twitter and Facebook, and everyone who reads and comments on this blog.
And although I didn’t have written goals, I was personally driven to write 2-3 stories per week with the personal demand that I always write from both my head and my heart. In 2013, I posted 164 stories on One Woman, Many Bicycles, 24 on Bike Fun and one on Pedal Love. That’s 3.6 per week for the year for about 150,000 views. I’d say that my system was how I achieved the vague goals I stated at the beginning of the year.
As for 2014, I’ve decided to stick with the Third Commandment of Frisbee: Never precede any maneuver by a comment more predictive than “Watch this.” So for 2014 I say “Watch this!”
Happy New Year!